Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tree of Life

Tree of Life
"The nuns taught us there were two ways through life - the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow.

Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries.

Nature only wants to please itself. Get others to please it too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things."

Opening lines from the movie, Tree of Life

When I was little, my father’s favourite singer was Eddy Arnold. Though known primarily as a country singer, in the sixties Mr. Arnold decided to expand his musical horizons a bit and began to both record and perform with symphony orchestras. This move was rather unpopular with some of his more rabid fans, but Daddy loved it, and when the tour came to our town he purchased tickets for us to go. I well remember sitting in the audience in my best dress, watching the conductor lead our local symphony in the opening music. Having never heard a live symphony before, I was enchanted. But there happened to be a fellow seated just behind us who, apparently, was not. First came the theatrical sighs, then the exaggerated shifting in his seat. Then a few rather vociferous groans until finally his irritation could no longer be contained. He stood to his feet and yelled out for all to hear....”Get the guy in the monkey suit off the stage!”. Mother was offended. Daddy laughed. And I learned an interesting lesson that day - some people simply cannot abide stepping outside the realm of their experience, even for something as wonderful as the symphony.
I was reminded of this last weekend while watching the film Tree of Life. A couple at the end of the aisle could not seem to rein in their displeasure at what they were seeing on the screen and voiced their feelings through various groans and sighs, peppered with the occasional guffaw. Blessedly, less than a third of the way through the film, they left the theatre.
Now granted, this is not a typical summer movie. A remarkable work from director Terence Malick, Tree of Life unabashedly asks the hard questions, those we hear asked by the soul in the dead of night. It is a film that questions God about death as well as life, about our connection to each other, about our place in the world. It is non-linear and impressionistic. It is sincere. It is beautiful. Yes, it is a cerebral work that requires both thought and sensitivity from the viewer, but its rewards are great. I have turned it over in my mind for days, gleaning something new each time that I do.
Thinking about the fellow from that long ago concert as well as the movie couple of this past week has made me wonder. What is it about beauty that makes some of us so uncomfortable, even angry? Why do some of us ridicule the unfamiliar while others embrace the new with open hearts and minds? The elegiac words found at the very top of this post are heard at the opening of Tree of Life and they are the fabric on which each subsequent scene is embroidered.
I rather think they represent the ultimate question for mankind.
Which will it be?
Nature or grace?
When Tree of Life was shown at Cannes in May, some in the audience jeered.
The film went on to win the Palme d’Or, the highest prize of the festival.
Obviously it is a universal question.

Photo above: Trees in my back garden


  1. "Why do some of us ridicule the unfamiliar while others embrace the new with open hearts and minds?"

    I should think the answer would lie in how secure a person feels within.

  2. lovely post and beautiful trees

    so happy to stop by today, my friend

    kary and teddy

  3. Wow, what wonderful trees!

    I would like to see this movie but have been hesitant. I was afraid it might be depressing, but after reading your post it sounds very intriguing.

  4. Hello Pamela

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this movie. I love Eddy Arnold and his song, Make The World Go Away.

    Your trees are beautiful.

    Have a great week end!

    Tracy :)

  5. I was reading and re-reading the opening lines, and not till I kept reading did I realize the movie was the one I read about recently. I read that Brad Pitt and others were booed, then the movie won the award. It does sound interesting but I don't know what it will say to me. Oftentimes, I can't see the forest for the trees.

  6. Pamela, like many others, I have been following this one with curious interest. I am glad you have seen it and I enjoyed what you had to say. It is on my list and I will most definitely go in with an open mind. I understand the cinematography is spectacular. I will be sure to look for a seat away from the crowds...

    Thinking of you over at Finding My Way, left you a little message to find. :)

    Best wishes Pamela....

    Jeanne xxx

  7. Going to see this movie soon..

    Wishing you a grand weekend.!!

  8. I ask this question often - I did so particularly when I first came to live up here in quite remote, rather insular surroundings. The locals did not seem to see the surrounding beauty and had never been to see the waterfalls etc. Then I realised that it was not that they didn't see them, it was just that they were such a part of their lives that they just took them forgranted.

  9. Sounds as if this is the next movie for me!!! I've been looking forward to its arrival in our city, thanks to the trailers, and am pleased to hear of your commendations for it :) I'm off to the theatre!

  10. I've so been wanting to see this. It looks spectacular from the trailers. Ignorance and insecurity I think make people unwelcome to experiencing something new and beautiful. I had a friend say once to me when I said..."Oh....this is so interesting!"

    "Oh, are interested in everything!"

    Like that was a bad thing. Yes, I am open to everything and reserve judgement until after I've experienced it.

    Love your blog so much!!!!

  11. I cannot wait to see this movie. Beautiful trees. Have a great weekend.

  12. Could not agree with you more! Beautifully written post!
    Loved the movie, cerebral is an understatement
    Itbmakes you realize how agitated non intellectuals become when faced with the reality of how simple they are, and for all to see!
    Love your blog
    Have a great weekend
    Jamie Herzlinger

  13. A universal question and a tough one....I have read many reviews of this film but yours Pamela is the first that has tempted me to go.....xv

  14. I saw it last weekend; that same day I heard a story on NPR about people demanding refunds, so I wasn't sure what to expect. 2 people walked out, but that was near the end - I didn't care for the ending either. Amazing film. I loved the depiction of 1950s childhood.

  15. Having no T.V. and not being a great follower of pop culture and what is current, I had not heard about this movie so I went to IMBd to check out the trailers... yes it looks like it would be very provocative. Shall look forward to seeing it, though I do not agree with the opening lines. Unfortunately, humanity has the weird idea that nature and grace are separate. It's what get's us into trouble over and over... Lovely review... it is odd what captures us and what we mull over in our minds don't you think?

  16. my only question remains and will ever remain...
    why do those people who do not appreciate beauty and deep thought and new experiences ... feel that they have to so loudly make their impression known to the rest of us who are only trying to enjoy it in peace? what has happened to simply good manners?
    i do not want a tattoo. but i am not going to loudly proclaim what i feel about them to anyone who chooses to display that kind of art form!
    enough already !!!!
    thanks for the wonderful post, as always.
    tammy j

  17. On a hot summers day , under a a cherry tree , chilled honeydew melon . Wilf has learnt to share Edwards favourite !

  18. I cannot wait to see this film. It's been gathering in my consciousness as more and more people who's opinion I respect are recommending it. I believe it is momentous.

    Beautiful trees.

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  20. If everyone liked the same thing I suppose we’d all be standing in a very long queue.

  21. What an impossible choice those well meaning nuns gave. How very difficult to go one way whilst all the while being pulled by the other. I must look out for that film and drag my other half along.

  22. With your first commenter, I agree. How secure we are with ourselves is how secure we'll be with each other. I'll have to wait until the movie comes out on DVD; to be sure, it won't play out here in the hinterlands!

  23. I can't wait to see that movie.


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